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It can certainly be traumatic for a young girl to lose hair. We trace her story of courage, acceptance and self-love; Tanya Maheshwari who confidently has taken Alopecia in her stride.

Born in Delhi, Tanya was a regular school going girl. The only thing unusual was her undiagnosed condition of Alopecia. It is a disease condition wherein the person tends to lose hair from the scalp, or in extreme cases, from the entire body.

The Maze of Diagnosis

It took six long years and umpteen treatments to conclude that she was suffering from alopecia, a genetic disorder that is characterised by a receding hairline and excessive hair loss.

 “I always had thin hair since the beginning, and when I first got my menstrual period at the age of 13, I started losing my hair in chunks. The initial medical drawing was that it could be PCOS or hormonal imbalance that was causing excessive hair loss.

For a good number of years, my family and I were shooting in the dark and tried everything possible, including hormonal contraception pills, Ayurveda, homoeopathy, acupuncture and home remedies. The last straw in the hat was hair transplant which I underwent. I still have those marks of 150 stitches. It was a massive relief when I got a definite diagnosis that my condition is androgenetic alopecia. Finally, I had a name for the six years of a rollercoaster ride as a teenager.” Unknown to the family, there was a history of alopecia in Tanya’s paternal grandmother’s side, but none in the family were aware of the condition.

Emotional & Physical Turmoil

For a teenager, be it a boy or girl; losing hair can come with several physical and psychological challenges. It was no different for Tanya. As a teenager, she was socially awkward for obvious reasons. Peer pressure, public humiliation was all a part of her growing up years.

“I grappled with self-esteem and social anxiety since my condition started, and I still do to some extent. There was a time in high school when I was hosting a cultural show, and a few days later, the photos from the event were shared. The photographer took a few shots from the auditorium balcony, which captured my bald spots, and I realised how exposed my crown was. I remember staring at the pictures with a sinking heart, thinking, “it can’t be me”, and at that moment I just wanted to disappear. So I did the next logical thing – went home, hugged my mom and cried myself to bed. That was me at 16 and today, I feel I have come a long way,” she says with a smile.

Alopecia, after all, is the superpower where one gets the power to change the length, style and colour every single day without stepping into a salon.

A Paradigm Shift- India & the West

Tanya who briefly worked in Dubai and then Singapore after completing her studies in Delhi moved to London to pursue her Masters. “In London, hair loss is accepted as a medical condition. People don’t judge you. I have become more confident after moving out of India. While it was a big cultural shock in India to see a girl with less hair, it wasn’t a big deal in the West.

When I was losing hair, people back home were worried ‘ki shaadi nahi hogi.’ Wearing extensions is not looked down upon, unlike in India, where people are there to often judge you.’’

The Journey of Self Acceptance

“When I moved out from India three years ago; it was a refreshing change and a catalyst to the self-acceptance journey. As much as I longed to run my fingers inside my hair, same dire desire I had inside to accept and embrace my reality. So I went ahead and shaved my head a few months ago, and it was the most liberating moment of my life. I squealed in the chair. When I looked at myself in the mirror, an epiphany struck- this is who I am and hiding it further made no sense.’’

Family Support

It is no secret, family and loved ones can be the rock to hold on to while dealing with life’s fierce blows. Tanya’s family left no stone unturned and tirelessly consulted various doctors, spending considerable time with them and recounting her condition and giving blood tests multiple times.

“My husband Anmol has been a great support and normalises my condition. He likes me without a wig and encourages me just to be myself. I gave up on medications long back.

As I conclude I request each and everyone reading the story to stay kind to others, not judge people on their physical appearance. You never know what the other person is going through.”

Tanya is currently living with her husband in Hong Kong and works at a research consultancy firm. She is regular to Gurgaon since her parents, and her other family members stay here.

This article was first published in the Print version of SUBURB February 2020 issue.

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